Marine renewable energy

Policy actions  3 of 3

Science and research

Scottish Marine Energy Research (ScotMER) Programme overview

As responsible regulators, we are investing in research to enable and promote the sustainable development of offshore renewable energy. 

With the ongoing climate emergency and biodiversity crisis, the need to decarbonise our society while protecting the environment has never been greater. To achieve this, we are committed to a Just Transition to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. Meeting these challenging climate change targets will require developing Scotland’s renewable energy potential and offshore wind energy developments will play a vital part in this.

We need to improve the evidence base around how offshore renewable energy developments will affect our socioeconomics, our natural environment, and other users of the sea. This will help us to develop offshore renewable energy efficiently and in a sustainable manner, and ensure our marine environment is managed to meet the long term needs of nature and people.

Our National Marine Plan commits us to make decisions on the best available scientific evidence. Where evidence gaps and uncertainties exist, the ScotMER programme seeks to address these evidence gaps, where it is most needed. New information can then be fed back into planning, licensing and consenting processes as well as policy. As an example, new evidence produced by the ScotMER programme is now feeding into the Sectoral Marine Plan for Offshore Wind Energy Iterative Plan Review process, which will be used in environmental assessments for new ScotWind developments.

Key to ScotMER’s success is the collaboration of experts from academia, industry, statutory nature conservation bodies (SNCBs), environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the Scottish Government (marine science, planning and licensing colleagues). Together, we identify gaps in the evidence surrounding the impacts of offshore renewable energy on the marine environment which ensures a shared common understanding of the research needs. We then undertake targeted research to better address these evidence gaps and improve the evidence base to inform future decision making and research. We also hold ScotMER Symposium events to share new information widely and encourage discussion across industry, academics, advisors, and other stakeholders. 

ScotMER evidence maps

The Scottish Government (marine science, planning and licensing colleagues) has worked with experts from academia, industry, environmental NGOs and SNCBs to map out the evidence gaps when assessing the environmental and socio-economic impacts of offshore renewable developments.

To do this, seven ScotMER Receptor Groups were created. These groups are:

Each ScotMER Receptor Group, made up of experts and stakeholders, have worked together to produce ‘evidence maps’ which provide a framework to guide research that would contribute to the Scottish Government needs. Evidence maps help guide ScotMER research projects but also provide a platform to communicate needs to a broader stakeholder community and facilitate collaborative research opportunities.

ScotMER research programme

The ScotMER programme takes forward the highest priority research projects based on needs identified by the evidence maps.

The ScotMER programme aims to facilitate collaboration with industry, SNCBs, other government departments, researchers, NGOs, and other interested stakeholders, across Scotland, the UK, and Europe, to conduct research that will aid further understanding of the environmental and socio-economic impacts of offshore renewables developments. This co-ordinated approach enables exploration of joint funding opportunities, co-operation across national boundaries, and new evidence to inform future decision making.

Ongoing projects

  • seabird tagging feasibility study for the Sectoral Marine Plan
  • development of a framework to evaluate ornithological compensatory measures
  • strategic study of collision risk for birds on migration and further development of the stochastic Collision Risk Modelling tool
  • review and recommendations of energy conversion factors used in underwater impact pile driving noise models
  • methodology for combining digital aerial survey data and passive acoustic baseline data
  • salmonid tracking to inform spatial movements around offshore wind farms in the Moray Firth
  • seal distribution and habitat use around Shetland – harbour seal tracking project
  • offshore wind and marine renewables data archiving procedures and guidance
  • developing a population model for Rum Manx shearwaters for assessing OWF impacts and conservation measures
  • tracking Petrels to understand distributions and behaviours at sea and potential interactions with planned offshore wind developments on the West Coast of Scotland (Extension of EMFF project) 
  • further development of the Seabird Sensitivity Mapping Tool (managed by ORJIP)

  • Diadromous fish in the context of offshore wind – review of current knowledge and future research

Publications coming in 2023

  • developing marine mammal dynamic energy budget models and their potential for integration into the iPCoD framework
  • improving estimation of parameters used to estimate collision risk of seabirds with offshore wind farms


ScotMER symposiums

In October 2018, Marine Scotland showcased recent research projects undertaken in collaboration with organisations across Scotland and Europe in the First ScotMER symposium. 

Marine Scotland held its second ScotMER symposium in March 2019, this time focussing on Scotland’s marine mammals. The symposium showcased recent research and new methods being developed to understand the potential interactions between marine mammals and renewable energy developments, and covered topics such as noise, strategic monitoring, collision risk and modelling population level consequences of disturbance.

The third ScotMER symposium took place in March 2020 and focused on research and monitoring around offshore wind developments on the east coast of Scotland. 

The fourth ScotMER Symposium was held online on 1-3 December 2020. The symposium focussed on the recent research on seabirds, marine mammals, fish, benthic and socioeconomics, in relation to offshore renewable developments.

Attendees at ScotMER symposia include industry, academia, nature conservation organisations and advisory bodies.

The fifth ScotMER Symposium took place from 31 January to 2 February 2023. The three-day event was delivered entirely online and is free of charge. This event presented recent research on seabirds, fish and fisheries, marine mammals, diadromous fish, ecosystem level research and socioeconomics, in relation to offshore renewable developments in Scotland. There was also talks presenting our Sectoral Marine Plan and National Marine Plan as well as dedicated workshops covering topics such as such as ornithology impact assessment and assessing social impacts in marine developments.

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